Wichita woman among Peace Corps volunteers evacuated from West Africa due to Ebola

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WICHITA, KAN. --- As the Ebola virus continues to spread at alarming rates in West Africa, the Peace Corps is evacuating its 340 volunteers working near the outbreak.

Among those pulling out of the region is a 23-year-old Wichita woman who just returned to the U.S. three days ago.

Jordyn Giddens had planned on living in Sierra Leone for 27 months teaching secondary education to middle and high school-aged students.

But just eight weeks into the Peace Corps program, she was told it's time to go home.

"We got the call to pack our bags because the next day we'd be leaving," Giddens said.

With no newspapers and limited internet access, Giddens and the other 54 volunteers at her post had no idea just how serious the situation had become right where they were living.

"When we got back to our first country that wasn't Sierra Leone, which for some of us was France and for some of us, Brussels, we were shocked to find out that the first story everyone wanted to talk about was Ebola," Giddens said.

Recent numbers show the people in Sierra Leone are most at risk with nearly 650 suspected cases there. Giddens believes the combination of their poor health care system and strict Muslim faith are major factors.

"My host family didn't believe that the virus was real. So the lack of education, and the religious-cultural aspects of it, I think that's a huge part of it spreading," she said.

While she waits at her parents' home in Wichita to see what happens next, Giddens says this experience only makes her more passionate about doing humanitarian work. "I think a lot of us want to continue service with the Peace Corps because for the two months we were there, I personally fell in love with it."

Giddens says the Peace Corps has instructed all volunteers in her program to watch for any symptoms over the next couple weeks and to take their temperatures twice a day.

She says she never came into contact with anyone who had contracted Ebola during her time in Africa.


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